Design + Products + Trends + People

Steampunk’d.

There was something really sexy about the Industrial-Victorian Era.

We’re not sure if it was the laced corsets, the candid facial hair, or perhaps simply the excitement of an ever-evolving world, but there was something attractive about this period of constant discovery. Turn-of-the-century science-fiction novelists capitalized on the rapid pace at which society was transforming and so descriptively gave life to visions of “the future,” we are still intrigued– 100 years later. Our generation seems to have tapped into a nostalgia for the futuristic devices and aesthetic of the 19th century, a nostalgia that has seeped into all aspects of modern design. In the spirit of H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft, the style of “steampunk” (also referred to as the New Victorian) celebrates the Victorian Era on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. This romanticization of the era is evidenced in reinvented turn-of-the-century fashions, retrofit electronics, and interiors with gizmos and gadgets a-plenty.

One such interior is the converted-warehouse Chelsea loft of American Filmmaker, Jeremy Noritz. Inspired by his own research into the birth of photography and aviation during a time when “strange blimps floated gently through the sky against early industrialized landscapes,” Noritz created a zeppelin-inspired world all his own. Described as having a Jules Verne meets Tim Burton sensibility, the apartment’s main features include a 32-foot long technicolored zeppelin suspended from the ceiling and a green deep-sea submarine entry door. Lining the walls are gears, gizmos, and gadgets, some decorative and others functional– like the intricate pulley system that lowers a Murphy bed from the wall.

While we admire his enthusiasm — and without question, would love to rock out in a space that cool— we also appreciate steampunk in smaller doses. Industrial statement pieces can be just the thing to contrast a clean and modern look; The raw materials and machine-forged detailing from eras past stand out against a polished contemporary backdrop, casting them as both functional and sculptural elements. Pieces such as a Dickensian drafting table or copper wash tub could stand alone as art, their intricate and whimsical  mechanisms speak for themselves.

We adore Madame Voila’s (Katrien Van Der Schueren) “Handelier”, an avant garde chandelier handcrafted from perforated vintage aluminum glove molds. With a 12″ old-school Edison bulb suspended inside, light sparkles through the punctured holes in the aluminum and dances around the room. Completely genuine, there is nothing else like it– both because it was made from reclaimed materials and because, well, only Madame Voila could pull it off.

Therein lies the beauty of the Industrial Age: it was an age of exploration, invention, and experimentation that was reflected in the advances in machinery, making the impossible, possible. Man had only dreamed of such crazy notions as flying, or exploring the ocean floor, and here was a time where these dreams came true– it’s easy to see why we’re homesick for a time where such “magic” took place.

 Sarah Pytlik. HighStreet. Cincinnati.

One Response to “Steampunk’d.”

  1. Timothy Leslie says:

    I’m a huge fan of Victorian and Edwardian history…. almost one of the bookcases in my library at home is filled with British histories and British art books. Steam punk is so prevalent in the movie ” Dune”…one of my favorites: Black hoop skirts and bustles, clunky and industrial space crafts and trains…. lots of steam pouring out over the landing stations!

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